Shot Peening in the Automotive Industry
in Vol. 16 - November Issue - Year 2015
Formula One, Still Good To Experiment With New Solutions?
Formula One has always been considered as a high-tech sector, where drivers, engineers, technicians and automotive manufacturers are continuously competing to show who is the best one, by developing new and innovative solutions that will be adopted in everyday cars we see on the roads.
Apart from the never-ending debate about what is the most important factor for the success of a Formula One team; that is, the driver or the car, it is well recognized that if you want to win in this kind of competition, you have to experiment with new solutions, aimed at obtaining better performance, reducing the weight, and possibly, increasing the reliability of the car. This is a good mix to become a winner, without forgetting the importance of a top driver.
This mix has originated unforgettable challenges in Formula One: I remember McLaren vs Ferrari, or Williams against Braham or, more recently, Red Bull and Toro Rosso with Mercedes, and so on.
And what about the drivers: Senna and Prost, Mansell and Piquet, or Schumacher and Hakkinen, who were able to invent an extraordinary overtake during one past Belgium GP, if I am not wrong.
Shot peening was an important part of these competitions. In fact, Formula One cars used to continuously change from one race to the next one, toward the best set-up, and it was usual to change both the gearbox and the engine at the end of every race.
That is to say, that in that case it was possible to experiment with new shot peening solutions, with process parameters aimed at ensuring the maximum performances in extremely stressed components. This can be considered a good test to experiment with new solutions, which could then be developed and studied for large-volume production of cars.
A friend of mine working in a company that supplies shot peening to many of the Formula One Teams told me that at that time, the company did not close for the summer holidays since there was a lot of work to be done in a really short time!
Moreover, in those years, Formula One became very popular in the world, from the Far East to the US, with an increasing number of races, mainly overseas, and less European circuits.
However, that way to run was expensive and the rules changed. Indeed, with the old rules, the number of teams became strongly reduced due to the excessive amount of money needed to run this kind of activity; just the top teams risked remaining.
Today, everything is different, and there is a limited number of engines and gearboxes available for the entire Formula One calendar; this does not make it possible to experiment with new solutions. Shot peening is performed in a way quite similar to the other cars, since the engine and the other components have to endure for longer periods.
My friend is still the chief engineer in that company, and says that now during summer time, the atmosphere is much more relaxed and the company stop for a couple of weeks in August because there is no need to treat new crankshafts, con rods and gears for the next Grand Prix.
Almost everything is done at the beginning of the season... and races are becoming more and more boring (or, at least, this is my thought) even if a larger number of cars is now running.
Maybe this is better for the show and for the TV audience, but for technology development.
This can be said also for shot peening: no new solutions in terms of process parameters are being investigated in Formula 1, just routine parameters, in order not to risk failures that could affect also the next race. This is a pity, and risks making the development of new improved solutions in the cars we use every day much slower. Some changing of the rules could help to reduce the problem, and probably even the show would improve!
Shot Peening in the Automotive Industry
by Mario Guagliano
Contributing Editor MFN and
Associate Professor of Technical University of Milan
20156 Milan, Italy